sweet date ‘n pork meatballs

I know what must be going through your mind … What is she thinking with this one? Well it’s that time of the month (not that time) but Burwell General Store Recipe Swap Time, and this months challenge was pork and fruit cake. Yip pork cake. Hmm as a baker I was a little put off my the idea, but it occurred to me that I have loved many an asian dish featuring sweet pork, and then and there, these sweet little maple syrup pork and date meat balls were born.

Here is the original recipe from the (vintage) Nebraska Pioneer Cookbook:

And here is my spin, a sweet pork balls with tidbits of caramelized onions and sweet ribbons of date, with a hit of ginger and chili. I used molasses as called for in the original cake recipe, and like a good Canadian I swapped maple syrup in for the sugar.

Combine the following in a small bowl:

1 lb of happy local ground pork

1 farm fresh egg


1/2 cup of slowly browned caramelized onion, finely chopped

6 dates, pitted and finely chopped

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp molasses

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

2 garlic cloves minced

1 tsp hot pepper flakes

Form mixture into small meatballs and either bake until cooked (about 20 minutes at 375) or if you are feeling really indulgent, and hey if we are talking about fruit pork cake, then throw caution to the wind and brown these babies in a cast iron pan full of bacon drippings like a real pioneer woman.

I decided to pair the sweet meat with spicy bitter greens tossed in buckwheat noodles with a simple ginger maple tamari vinaigrette, and finished the dish with some extra caramelized onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Way yummy, and sooo not a cake of pork and rasins!

To check out everyone else’s pork and fruit cake experiments, use the below link:


7 Comments to “sweet date ‘n pork meatballs”

  1. The original recipe did not appeal to me at all, and I am positive that a great number of us feel the same:) But it was a wonderful starting point and I know I am in for a treat as I continue reading the posts.
    Love your take on it! As my girls love meatballs, I’ll have to introduce them to these:)

  2. Great idea to use dates with the meat for both flavor and texture. And the tamari vinaigrette sounds intriguing, would love to see a recipe on that! Nice swap.

  3. Yes… “a cake of pork and raisins” holds about as much appeal as “a sitcom starring Rick Perry.” Nevertheless, it really set down a challenge, right? I like where you went with it, and the sesame seeds are a nice final touch!

  4. Those meatballs sound and look really good! I think I would love to have some!

  5. What a great idea – salivating looking at these!

  6. Pork fruit cake may not appeal to me but these meatballs sound incredible! Recipes like this make me glad I have an omnivorous husband to cook for. Brilliant!

  7. These look great! Nice twist of the recipe. We all definitely cringed at this one!

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